New Delhi: A day after the Narendra Modi government approved the merger of eight existing rail services into a single Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS), officers from three of the old services have taken to social media, calling the decision arbitrary, unfair and demotivating.
At the heart of the resentment among officers is the structural division of the Indian Railway Service. While three services — Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS), Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) and Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS) — constitute the railway’s civil services, the other five constitute the technical or engineering services.
In a statement released Tuesday, the government said: “This will end the culture of working in ‘silos’ and mark the beginning of a new and unified railway with a coherent vision for the future.”
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters that the reform would end departmentalism in the railway sector, encourage comprehensive and smooth working and expedite decision making.
Social media campaign
The unification has instead led to an aggressive social media campaign by officers from the first three services, who believe their “civil service dream” has been shattered by the government in one stroke.
Very unfair and against principles of natural justice to simply equate two cadres recruited through different exams that have different levels of difficulty and different levels of competition. Too unfair. #NOTOIRMS, @DoPTGoI https://t.co/1nzCpfxGMN
— Chaitanya Pasupala (@cpasupala) December 25, 2019
IRMS!! Didn't join my esteemed service to see this day. Unfair, without consent and absolutely detrimental to the future of Indian Railways. This disaster needs to be avoided at all costs! #NotoIRMS #YestoTwoServices #SaveIndianRailways @PMOIndia
— Anam Siddiqui (@anam105) December 25, 2019
— Harisha Vellanki (@HarishaV) December 25, 2019
— sanjay bhatnagar (@Sanjayb1108) December 25, 2019
“We come through two different exams. As civil servants, we compete with the brightest minds in the country, and after several years of persistence, crack the UPSC exam,” said a young IRAS officer. “How can we suddenly be clubbed with any other service which is not that coveted? Tomorrow, IAS will be clubbed with the Indian Stenographer Service or something… Is that fair?”
While exams for all the eight services are conducted by the UPSC, there is a separate exam for the engineering services, which is not considered to be as prestigious and competitive as the civil service exam.
“There was logic for the specialisation,” said a senior IRTS officer. “If someone is a civil engineer and has joined the civil engineering service, and received training for that all their life, how can you suddenly put them in a managerial role?”
The officer added, “On one hand, you talk about domain expertise, and on the other, you are killing it wherever it exists.”
The IRTS officer said the sense of disillusionment among the officers could impact the efficiency of the Railways, and even compromise safety going ahead.
“It is a complete lie that there was any consultation,” the officer added. “By taking this decision arbitrarily, the government has violated the immunity civil servants have from political interference.”
A technical and a non-technical service
On social media, where the hashtag #NoToIRMS has been trending, officers suggested that the government should instead have two services — technical and non-technical.
“As civil servants, we keep a check on the functioning of the railways, and expose the technical and financial excesses or flaws in the sector,” said the IRAS officer quoted above. “At best, you could have created two services, one managerial and another technical.”
There is also the issue of age. While the average age of those who come through the civil service exam is 27-28, that of the engineering service officers is 23-24.
“The engineering service officers join right after engineering, so they are young. If they get to head departments now, they will have more time in service, and the civil services will lose out,” the officer said.
“There is a lot of resentment among officers on this decision. This is a betrayal to the brightest minds of the country who join the civil service,” the IRAS officer added.